At a meeting with Italy’s Pro-Life Movement, Pope Francis thanked members for their work to defend the right to life and promote the dignity of all human beings, from conception to natural death. “Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil law is based on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, neither qualitative nor economic, much less ideological,” the Roman Pontiff said March 11. “Thank you for your witness of promoting and defending human life from the moment of conception!” The Holy Father’s words came in a meeting with Movimento per la Vita, an association of more than 600 local Italian movements. He greeted in particular the movement’s president, Carlo Casini, who is also a member of the European Parliament, where he represents the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats party. Pope Francis thanked the organization particularly for two of its initiatives. The first is the Gemma Project, which “through a particular form of practical solidarity” — the adoption of children while still in the womb — has made possible “the birth of many babies who would otherwise have not seen the light.” The second is “One of Us,” a European Union citizens’ initiative to ban the funding of policies that destroy human embryos. Pope Francis emphasized the importance of opposing an “economy of exclusion,” saying “the divorce between economics and morality” is “one of the most grave risks facing our age.” This divorce, he explained, leads to “a market which gives us every technological innovation” but renders the “elementary ethical norms of human nature … always more neglected.” “It is therefore necessary to reiterate the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the archetype (antonomasia) of innocence.” He quoted Vatican II's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, “Gaudium et spes,” which said that “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” “This is always part of a Christian’s competence in bearing witness to the gospel: to protect life with courage and love in all its phases.” “I encourage you to act always with a style of nearness, of closeness: that every woman feels regarded as a person, who is heard, accepted, accompanied,” he said. Pope Francis concluded by entrusting the movement’s members to the intercession of Mary and giving them his blessing. “Remember to pray also for me!” he said.